Sammy Sosa's other 76 bats were all that they were cracked up to be after an inspection from Major League Baseball.
But the Cubs couldn't get much else right Wednesday. With Sosa's suspension for using a corked bat Tuesday night likely to be announced soon, the Cubs dropped a 5-2 decision to the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays in front of 33,317 fans at Wrigley Field.
Sosa appeared totally befuddled at the plate in his first three at-bats, striking out three times against Victor Zambrano (2-3).
Fans greeted Sosa with a standing ovation before his first at-bat. But he waited until his last at-bat to single to left off reliever Lance Carter.
"It was great," said Sosa. "I feel very great that they support me. They know I am an innocent person. When I ran out to right field and everyone was cheering for me. I was just very happy inside. It was something that I am never going to forget."
The Cubs, struggling to retain first place, would like to forget fielding gaffesmental and physicalthat seemed to characterize a team clearly distracted by the controversy.
"The only thing on [Sosa's] mind was hitting the ball," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker of his beleaguered right-fielder. "Right now he's chasing [pitches] instead of letting [them] come to him."
Acknowledging he did receive a few catcalls from fans, Sosa said: "The majority supported me."
The Devil Rays took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Marlon Anderson rapped a one-out double against Cubs starter Shawn Estes (5-5). With two outs, Aubrey Huff (4-for-5) bounced a high hopper to the mound. Sensing Huff would beat out the play for a hit, Estes faked a throw to first and caught Anderson rounding third and heading for home. Estes' throw, however, caromed off the glove of Paul Bako for an error on the catcher.
A three-run third inning extended the Rays' lead to 4-0. Huff's RBI double drove in Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford drove in a pair of runs with a base hit as eight men came to the plate.
Alex Gonzalez led off the Cubs' fourth with a double before Moises Alou drove him in with a two-out single to make it 4-1.
The Cubs mounted a rally in the ninth. Corey Patterson reached on an infield hit before Sosa singled in the hole off Carter. Hee Sop Choi reached on a one-out error by second baseman Anderson. But Ramon Martinez and pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary failed to keep the inning alive.
Sosa, whose 505 home runs are 17th on the all-time list, has just three hits in his last 20 at-bats.
"I am going to hit, no doubt about it. It's just a question of time," Sosa sad. "I have only played four games [since coming off the disabled list]. I'll be there. It's probably going to take me a couple more games."
Asked if he expects to be suspended, Sosa said: "Whatever they decide to do, that's what I am going to do."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times